Verstappen crowned 2022 Formula 1 champion at Japanese Grand Prix


Max Verstappen claimed his second title at the Japanese Grand Prix, dominating a rain-delayed race at Suzuka.

Verstappen went to Suzuka with a strong chance at claiming the championship, just needing to win and claim fastest lap in order to take the title. The Dutchman would snatch pole position, but with the rain tumbling down on Sunday, he had a lot of work to do before glory was his.

As the lights went out, it appeared he had lost the lead to Charles Leclerc, before flying around the outside of turn one to claim the lead back.

But following crashes for Carlos Sainz and Alex Albon the FIA opted to throw a red flag with rain violently increasing, a stoppage that lasted for another two hours.

With the session stopped, anger towards the FIA soon became very apparent from fans and some drivers alike, after a recovery vehicle was placed on track in dangerous circumstances, with Pierre Gasly enraged having driven past at speed.

Over team radio, the Frenchman, who recently signed for Alpine, said:

“What is this tractor? What is this tractor on track? I passed next to it. This is unacceptable! What has happened? I can’t believe this.”

As the clock continued to tick down, it appeared increasingly unlikely that the race would restart, the FIA cancelling the initial restart due to further rain increases.

However, two hours and 15 minutes after the initial start, the race resumed. Drivers left the pit-lane queued up behind the safety car and, although the likes of Lewis Hamilton reported better conditions, those running at the back still found there to be too much spray.

Despite this, green flags were shown, Sebastian Vettel and Nicholas Latifi immediately gambling for the green-walled intermediate compound.

The rest of the field quickly followed, gaining more in the long-term despite the initial drop in pace compared to Vettel and Latifi.

Fernando Alonso would briefly keep the lead before pitting, and soon enough Verstappen resumed his starting position with an easy overtake on Mick Schumacher. His pace became unrivalled, edging his lead further lap-by-lap.

Leclerc and Perez fought for second, as both hoped to prevent Verstappen’s title for one more race. A robust defence on Perez at the final corner left Leclerc with a five-second penalty, dropping him behind the Red Bull.

Although victory was surely sweet, a slightly stranger moment came in the post-race interview as confusion began on social media, and within Formula 1’s own circle emerged as to whether Verstappen was champion or not.

The sport had handed out full-points despite the race not reaching full distance, leaving Verstappen out of reach for his title contenders.

Reacting to the news from Johnnie Herbert, Verstappen said:

“What can I say? Incredible, of course! Very special to do it here in front of all the Honda people, all the Japanese fans.”

Celebrations will be going on long into the night, as Red Bull celebrate their first back-to-back drivers championship since 2012 and 2013.

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